Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What's On Netflix: THE CROW

This week, I was challenged to watch, in honor of Valentine’s Day 2017, a cult-classic in 90s cinema – Alex Proyas’ comic book adaptation, The Crow. Walking into this movie, I knew absolutely nothing outside of the tragic story of Brandon Lee’s death on set. Even there, details were fuzzy in my mind. I purposefully avoided researching the film before sitting down and immersing myself into what turned out to be a two-hour adventure of craziness, heart, and confusion. The Crow may not be a masterpiece of cinema, but it tells a dark, compelling story of love and loss in a better way than most other action films, especially within the comic book genre.

 The story of The Crow is fairly straightforward. The Crow is set in a crime-ridden Detroit on Devil’s Night, a series of violent riots that took place every year on the night before Halloween in the 1970s through the 1990s. On October 30th, a group of men break into a random apartment and brutally murder Shelly and Eric, the engaged couple living there. Police chalk up the violence to the horrors of Devil’s Night and the crime is left unavenged. The next year, a crow – traditionally seen as a harbinger of death – taps on the gravestone of Eric Draven, bringing him back from the dead in an un-killable state so that, in a night of bloodsoaked vigilantism, he is able to bring the men who destroyed his life to justice.

Pretty straightforward stuff, right? In the hands of a different team this could have been just another revenge flick starring a faceless actor shooting random people without any real artistry or memorability. That is not The Crow and that is why this movie still holds up so well today. The greatest strength and the greatest weakness of The Crow is wrapped up in the over-the-top filming style that courses through every scene. On-screen images ebb and flow together in a style that can only be described as “trippy,” accompanied by a score that is as frenetic as it is deeply appropriate to the chaotic events depicted. As the movie began, this felt incredibly jarring and rough to me, but as time went by, I became more and more in love with the style of Proyas and his team.

There are definite rough patches in The Crow. Its script is cheesy to an almost unbelievable degree and, at moments, it takes its own ridiculous story far too seriously. The plot, such as it is, does not hold up well to close examination and really does not tie together as cohesively as I would hope, even for a dumb action movie. Perhaps that is moreso due to the fact that the movie never really presents itself as just another dumb action movie. By setting itself up as a weirdly philosophical and spiritual movie about lost love and revenge, complete with moody dimly-lit shots that seem like they were ripped from the combined subconscious of Tim Burton and whoever designs Hot Topic merchandising, The Crow excludes itself from the grace usually given movies that exist purely to entertain. The Crow seems to be trying to say something but, in the end, never really does.

The strength of The Crow rests firmly on the backs of both its stylistic creativity and Brandon Lee’s tragically beautiful lead performance. It is heart-breaking as a cinema lover to imagine what he could have created with more time. Due to mishandled firearms on set, Brandon Lee was shot and killed a few days before production concluded on The Crow. He only had the opportunity to star in five movies before his death at age 28. His charisma and his ability to commit to action scenes and dramatic moments of tension drove this movie forward and could have added so much to the artistic landscape of today. In the end, this movie is worth watching even if only as a tribute to one of our greatest Hollywood stars that we never got to see succeed.

The Crow
is not a perfect movie. It is, on some levels, barely a good movie. It exists as a masters course in style-over-substance, pairing a fairly weak plot and weak writing with beautiful visuals and a powerful performance. However, in an age where comic book movies are racing to join the R-rated hype-train, it is definitely worth revisiting this classic that proved before I was even born that the phenomenon of Deadpool was possible. Watch this movie tonight and prepare yourself for a wild ride.

Jonathan’s Score: 7/10

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